Magic School Bus
Artwork Courtesy of Scholastic

This is the first in a series of articles that aims to examine the RC’s opinion of FIELD and its effect on the first year HBS experience //  This installment focuses on how RC’s view the upcoming Global Immersion as part of the FIELD curriculum.

The Hives were full of anticipation on the night of the revealing.  Emotions ran high as RC’s scrambled to assemble the puzzle that would depict the geographic location they were soon to visit. The campus drama lingered in the following days, with friends and classmates asking each other where they were going and the dissatisfied petitioning for a reassignment.

We’ve all heard the story of the poor soul who received his last choice on the list of country preferences.  But are these tales representative of the whole?  How does the RC class really feel about the highly anticipated FIELD trip on which they are about to embark?  Do RC’s view the FIELD curriculum as a bona fide class or simply an overseas excursion?

To get a better sense of the high-level sentiment, I asked my classmates to complete a very simple six-question survey.  My low-tech design, powered by SurveyMonkey, aimed to assess the level of satisfaction of the 354 RC respondents with regards to their location assignment and industry focus, in addition to their expectations of FIELD’s educational value.

Location, Location, Location replica watches

The results on location were overwhelmingly positive.  First off, most students report that they are happy with their geographical destination; 77% say they are “very satisfied” with their location and 68% report getting their top-choice country.  In light of the bad buzz that some of dissatisfied students (rightfully) created after the unveiling, the survey paints a surprisingly encouraging picture of a class that, on the whole, is happy with their destination.

 Of course the data is not without its outliers.  For instance, it’s safe to say that the entire cohort originally sent to New Orleans was quite upset.  A member of this unlucky group told the Harbus, “I came to HBS looking for international exposure and I was really excited about experiencing a new country for FIELD.  New Orleans was incredibly frustrating.  Perhaps I was put there because I’m not from the U.S.  Either way I was angry.”  Fortunately the faculty was able to reassign the cohort to projects in South Africa, so much of the initial discontent was resolved.  There are still some cautionary tales.  One RC was offered no recourse after she received her second-to-last choice.  To add insult to injury, her project is in the same industry in which she already spent her entire professional career.

The industry focus brings us to an interesting question.  Do RC’s really care about their industry focus, which essentially determines the content of their work throughout the immersion experience? Apparently not.  Only 8% rank industry ahead of location in importance; 68% say that location is more important and 24% deem them equally important.  Industry seems to be an ancillary focus, at least at this early point in the course.

Assignment or Adventure?

Indeed, location is king.  To go a bit deeper, there is a strong correlation between students’ location satisfaction and their overall satisfaction with the FIELD curriculum. Respondents who are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their immersion location are much more likely to say the same thing about their “general view of the FIELD curriculum and its implementation”. They are also much more likely to say they expected FIELD to be “extremely valuable” or “somewhat valuable”.  Conversely, those who are happy with their industry were no more likely to approve of FIELD than anyone else.

It seems as though RC’s are judging FIELD solely on the immersion experience, at least for now.  For all intents and purposes, the rather narrow focus is on the FIELD trip as an adventure, or perhaps even a vacation.  Exotic project locales certainly appeal to the HBS student’s enthusiasm for travel and fun.  One RC articulated an observation shared by many classmates: “I see the trip in January as a reward for all of the extra class we have this semester.  I’m really excited to go somewhere I’ve never been before.”  Like a third-grade class that can’t wait to see the history museum, the RC class is impatient for an experience outside of the classroom.  We’ll check back in once they return to campus and see how it went.

FIELD Survey Results


Kate Lewis an RC in Section E.  Her FIELD assignment is in Mumbai, India, where she will be working for a company that makes hair removal products.